The Blacklist ~ Leonard Caul

4/30/2015

The Blacklist, Leonard Caul

I haven't posted anything about The Blacklist for quite a while now. For that you can blame both my procrastinating during the long breaks and another favorite show of mine, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Marvel has limited edition artwork for each of the final twelve episodes of SHIELD that I've been writing about, twice as many as last year. There are still three to go, so I doubt I'll get a chance to write about The Blacklist again before the finale. This season has been fantastic, but it takes me so long to finish certain posts, never knowing whether to concentrate on a few aspects or to just keep writing until words lose all meaning. I rely mostly on memory, because I hardly get the chance to rewatch and I never pause to take notes; if I did that, my family would wonder why I was ruining their viewing experience. Kept my TV blogging secret for five years and counting. I don't do a recap style anyway, so I never had the inclination to take notes. My style is more a reaction to the characters and their situation. So, you can usually find me just speaking off the cuff about the things that I loved the most about an episode - the feeling of it, how relationships change, how much Red gets hurt and still cannot reveal to Liz more than whispers of the truth. Then I rearrange that into something readable.

What you'll almost never find here are complaints about my favorite shows. They're my favorites for a reason. Something would have to be very wrong for me to project my own desires on them and be disappointed when they go another way. I never feel that they owe me anything. The writers generally know what they're doing and, while I imagine alternate scenarios for every scene, how it all ties together and what could happen, I don't presume that any ideas I have would be better. Where they are headed is for them to figure out in their own time and for us to discover the pieces bit by bit. I demand nothing other than beautiful drama, characters to care for, and an intriguing story. The Blacklist surely has a story to tell, and I am along for the ride as long as it stays true to its core: a dangerous man who betrayed his country and became a criminal mastermind, a broken man who lost his family and is trying to protect someone he loves and feels responsible for, and all the emotional baggage that come with that.

I'm running out of time here before the next episode, "Quon Zhang," which airs tonight at 9 PM Eastern on NBC. I actually sacrificed work for this, as usual. So, since I spent so long on that preamble, I think I'll just pick a few favorite moments to gush over. A few possible spoilers follow for those who aren't caught up to "Leonard Caul."

The first minutes of the episode with Liz and Dembe trying to get Red into the car without getting shot themselves, Red gasping for air, excruciating pain etched on his face, may have been the most intense scene of the series. And, yes, I do remember everything Red and Liz went through in the "Anslo Garrick" and "Luther Braxton" two-parters. There have been exciting moments, satisfying moments, funny moments, emotional moments, tense moments, unexpected moments, but this was something else. I was genuinely concerned that he might not make it, that he would never have another chance to reveal the truth to Liz. He is the show and it wouldn't work without him, so I shouldn't have been nervous, but I can't see him getting out alive in the end. From day one I've dreaded that, but in this episode I was concerned that it had come far sooner than expected.

I would include my tweet about the episode, but I'm mobile and can't access the desktop site. Anyway, if you're curious about my immediate reaction, follow this link. I'll replace it later with an embedded tweet if I get the chance.

This whole episode was a testament to Spader's talent. He has an innate understanding of how to play characters as people. The complexity of the role demands that in some scenes Spader play up the cold-blooded, menacingly jovial personality to protect his reputation in his dealings, and in others drop Red's guard to show the vulnerable and broken man beneath. He never fails to impress, but this episode showed even another layer. He was so convincing that I momentarily forgot that Red is irreplaceable and not likely to meet his maker...yet. In the end, surely. A number of times I realized I was holding my breath. Spader was captivating throughout, even when he was just listening to Tom, too tired and hurt to do otherwise. Until this episode's Petented Red Monologue near the end, he had few lines, mostly mumbled, blood choking the words. It was a superb performance that again managed to surprise me.

What didn't surpise me is that Dembe wouldn't leave Red's side, sending Liz in his stead to Red's apartment to get the machine to decrypt the Fulcrum. It's a small, lonely place filled with books, records, an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. And a kitty! At least he has company. Dembe knew Liz would see things there to reignite her hunger for the truth, including photos Red thought she would never see. This was a betrayal of Red's trust, now that I'm thinking about it. Though Dembe says he understands why Red hasn't told her, he obviously believes she should know.

Then there was Kate (Mr. Kaplan) saying she would stay, Red telling her to go, then giving him her gun and kissing him gently on the forehead. It was so sweet. I need to know her story. It's so touching to see people care about him.

Those moments made me even more nervous about the imminent attack, a situation even more dire than in the intense "Anslo Garrick" because there was no impenetrable box to hide in. The Director's kill team breach the door and toss a grenade. The sound of the action dims, the music taking over for a bigger emotional impact as Red's men are picked off one by one. Red alone in his bed, with just a gun and a hole in his chest. Still, taking out three guys before trying to get a weapon off one of them. Liz saving the day by bringing the Fulcrum to the Director, forcing him to call off Red's assassination seconds before the trigger is pulled, leaving Red stunned.

But not stunned enough to finally spill his guts to Liz. He almost took the secret to his grave and he still can't bring himself to say enough, even after he admitted to Dembe that he should have. Red almost got there with that beautiful speech. It looked like he was struggling not to. He wants Liz to know, but at the same time he's afraid to let her in. He seems to think the truth may destroy what's left of their strained relationship. But not telling her is even worse. He thought she should come to it in time, but the longer he strings her along the more likely he will lose her for good. Liz is a little ball of anger who's been though enough to nearly break her, and he hasn't handled her very well. That's just frustrated her more, and she has given up on Red ever being straight with her, teaming up with Tom to uncover the truth.

Until then, here's the entirety of the speech to savor again. It's one of Red's best.

"Liz, when I hired Tom Keen, it was at a time of profound transition in your life. You'd already left behind the relative safety and innocence of youth. Sam's care as a father had served you well, but you'd outgrown him. And I knew eventually my life would jeopardize yours. So, in an admittedly presumptuous and ultimately futile effort to keep you safe, I hired Tom, simply to be there, as a friend of a friend, to look after you from an arm's length. When I learned that your relationship had become intimate, I fired him. I should've removed him, but you were already in love with him. And Tom, he shifted his allegiance to Berlin in part to protect himself from me, but also because it allowed for an inextricable intimacy and commitment to you. And so you were married, and I couldn't stay away any longer. A confluence of peril had entered your life, and I wanted to be within reach, to have influence. I turned myself in to the FBI to point you toward a truth that, inevitably, you would have to discover for yourself."

I do not like the sneak peek for "Quon Zhang" involving Dembe and Samar. Please don't be the way it looks. Ugh, this show is going to kill me. If you missed it, you can watch below.

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